When my knee is feeling better (still sore after falling down a mantrap near to home, installed by that lovely company BAE Systems on a public footpath) I’m going to be installing some more loft insulation, just to make sure the house stays really warm this winter. Because we’ve now got a wood burner, we’re going to try not to use central heating at all – tough on a really cold day but we do have the wind at our backs, demonstrated by the shocking gas bill we got through the post last week.
In the UK, the main source of houshold space and water heating is North Sea (and increasingly Russian and Norwegian) natural gas: it’s far cleaner than burning coal and, on average, a much more efficient way of heating than using electricity. This graph shows the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions for each main, non-renewable fuel type: natural gas comes in at 0.206 kg CO2/kWh. But space and water take a lot of energy to heat…usually.
Our Â£25 gas bill (actually Â£24.55 from my own reading, but they rounded it up) is the result of using 564kWh of energy between 28 April and 13 August, which is about 116kg of carbon dioxide for our entire house. Bearing in mind there are four of us, that the average UK emissions are just under 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person (the USA is about 20 tonnes!), that 27% of UK emissions are domestic and that about 80% of all domestic emissions are from water and space heating (you’ll have to trust me on these figures, I don’t want to go reference crazy), we should be producing just over 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide from our gas burning.
Looking at my old gas bills, the summer one accounts for about a tenth of the total annual gas bill, which would mean my annual charge will be about Â£250 or, in carbon terms, about 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide for the four of us!
Surely this is some kind of weird magic spell we are weaving. Not at all, we just use a mixture of planning and modest home improvements:
1) MOST IMPORTANTLY we only heat what we have to. I have worked out exactly how much hot water we need for showers each day, which are never particularly hot, and more significantly, the heating doesn’t go on until the temperature drops below 16C (60F). We wear clothes according to the temperature.
2) We have installed the aforementioned wood burner, which will mean in the evenings most of our heating will come from renewable, essentially carbon neutral, wood.
3) We have a pretty efficient boiler, which is regularly serviced. All exposed pipes are lagged, as is the water tank.
4) The roof spaces are very well lagged, as are the cavity walls, and I’m planning to do more soon.
See, no magic at all, but still we manage to use only 14% of the natural gas of an average UK household. If everyone did the same, the climate crisis would be far less of a crisis. But, of course, we won’t because we aren’t taught to think – only slavishly follow what everyone else does, regardless of the (terrible) consequences.
If you do want to be different though, then go ahead and save loads of energy. Seriously, it’s really easy!